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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Aspergers, spending and new things

Having spent two days with Ethan's parents I'm reminded of how much both nature and nurture affect who we become.
It's flipin' hard to have a conversation with them. If anything becomes too personal or tied into feelings, they quickly clam up, walk away or occupy themselves with something. And, if they have the choice, they'll just by-pass conversation altogether. The first day they were here the ipad, laptop, Nexus7, computer and iphones were all on, all day and dominated everything - conversation, activity, even mealtimes. But then fiddling about on the laptop gave Ethan and his dad that connection, something to focus their communication on, that they wouldn't otherwise have had. Take away the gadgets, and conversation quickly got strained, or dried up altogether. And that's with me in the mix - and I'm an expert talker! I've always felt like I've had the ability to chat to anyone, get anyone talking, find a connection or some common ground - or at least feign interest and get a person to chat about themselves. But boy, by the end of two days even I was struggling.
And then there was the inability or refusal to disconnect the brain from the mouth. Ethan's dad punctuated the day with telling us our house was cold, telling us our children were badly behaved, telling us the places we took them to were rubbish! It's a good job I've developed a thick skin. Being married to someone with Asperger's has, at least, done that for me!
Big blow up at the weekend when I discovered that Ethan had been eyeing up Apple TV's on the Internet. So far in the past year, Ethan has purchased new speakers, a new amp, a new blu ray player, a new pair of eyes (laser surgery cos he didn't like wearing glasses), two new TVs, 30 new down-lights (cos the perfectly good lights we already had weren't the right kind) and an ipad that is completely excessive in addition to the two laptops, two iphones and computer that we already have. Believe it or not, I hate excessive spending, excessive anything actually. I'd much rather we had less and gave away more. But the arguments are exhausting. With each (unnecessary) purchase Ethan promises that this is the 'last thing' that there's 'nothing else I want'. But always, within a few weeks of having the new toy, he's looking for his next gadget fix.
Two weeks ago he bought the ipad that, I thought, we'd agreed we didn't need and wouldn't buy. Huge argument ensued. I felt like leaving him (and smashing up the ipad). He promised that was definitely 'the last thing'. I calmed down and (once again) let it go. Only to discover two weeks later him looking at prices for some other chunk of metal. It seems, with Ethan, the more he has the more he really does seem to want. And it's just so selfish and so unfair.
There are a couple of things I'd like (a log burner and a piano) that are now, thanks to Ethan's constant spending, way out of reach for years. And yet he keeps buying...And what he buys only he is interested in. Only he wants. He knows it will cause arguments and strain, and yet he keeps doing it. Like a junkie that is compelled to put his next fix above everything else.
Maybe I'm being too dramatic. Maybe other men have a midlife crisis and buy an expensive sports car, or spend thousands each year on football season tickets, or drink the equivalent of a small fortune every week at the pub. Ethan does none of that. But it seems wrong that I should just have to accept his constant indulgence in gadgets as a male quirk while my wishes and desires remain ignored or unrealised for decades (perhaps forever) because he's spent all our money on things that he wants....
In the meantime, I've got a job. Earning my own money to buy my own piano might be the only way we manage to stay together!


  1. Oh dear, I can relate so well to this! My husband will spend anything he gets, on what I really don't know, but the books, DVDs and Batman models pile up untouched in our money left for me and our animals...I have to earn it.

  2. Hi, I've only just discovered your blog today and reading through it with great interest (in a cafe, having left home after a row with my partner who - Im sure of, I work in the field - has Asp).

    In between the lines, I read a struggle that I can relate to - knowing what is the Asp and what is just him. What are things he genuinely cannot do vs the things he chooses not to (like we all!).

    I do try to be patient and understanding (your blog has a really nice tone!) - but I have also increasingly began to draw the hard line. And actually, it works. If something is totally unacceptable to me then it does not matter if it is Asp or his choice. It does not matter on whether I am willing to tolerate it that is. It does matter on the solutions we might identify.

    eg. My partner would spend all his time cleaning if he could. He loves it. And he is always eyeing new cleaning products... (yes, it is pretty good for a lot of the time!). But it can all get too much and frantic etc. So, after trying to have conversations and explain the negative effects etc but him just keeping going... eventually I just said it has to stop. I said what was the max cleaning I was willing to tolerate and that I would have no more than that amount each week (expressing things like that - as very clear cut rules - seems to work a lot better than trying to negotiate). It worked - to an extent. He's almost stopped all cleaning now (too much the other way) and we have identified that his real challenge is actually regulating it - he can't just do a bit as needed (not enough structure in that I suspect...) but can only do none or loads. So, we are now working on identifying manageable cleaning 'goals'...

    It does make me feel like a parent or a coach, to have to do these things... but it also has a hugely positive impact on our relationship. I think without being able to see these every day solutions I could not take it.

    We have had to go a fairly long way to get to a position where he is willing for me to help him to figure this stuff out too... and it does not often work the first time. But our rows used to happen almost daily - and now it is about 1-2 times a month and they are rarely shouting but just 'tough discussion'.

    I will continue to read your posts - it is great to find someone to relate to. Thank you for being so brave and sharing.